Kalle Rovanperä has dramatically stolen the lead of Rally Portugal from his team-mate Elfyn Evans, making the most of changeable conditions on the Amarante stage.
On the morning pass of Amarante Evans had gapped his Toyota team-mate substantially. But on the second pass inclement weather kicked in, as rain gradually began to fall more heavily as each car passed through.
With Evans traversing the stage four minutes after Rovanperä, that made a difference.
Suggesting that he “probably had the worst” of the rain, Evans was only sixth-fastest of the Rally1 drivers and conceded 13.9s to his title rival, enough to lose the lead of the rally.
Rovanperä now has a slim four-second lead heading to the day-ending Fafe superspecial.
“That sounds good,” said the championship leader. “[It was] really tricky with the hard tires as the stage was getting wet already in the middle part.
“Problem-free day again so we can be happy.”
Thierry Neuville took advantage of the heavens opening on the drivers behind him in the road order, posting by far the fastest stage time in drier conditions, 16.9s ahead of Rovanperä in what he called a “very smooth, clean drive.”
While his Amarante heroics didn’t gain him any positions, Neuville has suddenly launched himself into reach of fourth-placed Sordo, only 15.2s back.
Sordo continued to haemorrhage time to third-placed Takamoto Katsuta, dropping another 8.1s.
Hyundai’s best-placed driver admitted he still hasn’t been able to dial himself into the i20 Rally1, which he is driving competitively for the first time this week.
“I tried to change my style of driving to drive this car but looks like it’s not working,” he rued.
Craig Breen’s run on Amarante was enough to take fifth place off Pierre-Louis Loubet, who struggled to see when his windscreen wipers failed just as it started to rain.
Such was the impact of his visibility issues that Loubet was a whopping 51.1s off Neuville’s pace despite not making any major errors.
Ott Tänak’s strong run on Amarante, where he was third-fastest, has reduced his gap to the nearest Ford Puma ahead – now Loubet – to 33.7s.
- Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 24m42.2s
- Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +16.9s
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +21.0s
- Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +29.1s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +30.4s
- Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +30.8s
- Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +38.5s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +38.5s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Landais (M-Sport Ford) +51.1s
- Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai) +1m28.7s
Leading Positions after SS15
- Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 3h10m18.00s
- Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +4.0s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +1m37.6s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +1m52.2s
- Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2m07.4s
- Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +3m32.7s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Landais (M-Sport Ford) +3m47.8s
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +4m21.5s
- Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +6m47.0s
- Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai) +10m09.4s